In a decree issued yesterday, the communication ministry warned radio station owners they could face a sentence of up to three years in prison if they are not up to date with their licence fee payments of 250,000 CFA francs (380 euros) a year. Only 12 of the country’s privately-owned and community radio stations have been able to pay the fee.
The government already issued an order on 7 April to radio stations to stop broadcasting if they had not paid the fee. Bombolom FM, an opposition station, suspended broadcasting in response to this earlier warning. The licence cost is very high for Guinea-Bissau’s radio stations, which earn very little and are not subsidised by the state, unlike the print media.
“This measure is particularly outrageous given the very difficult economic environment in which the media operate and, above all, the government’s failure to implement sustainable support strategies for the media,” said Sadibou Marong, the director of RSF’s West Africa bureau. “In the current – very troubled – political context, it is hard not to regard these threats as being designed to keep the media under control. We ask the authorities to reconsider this decision and to favour dialogue if they don’t want it to be seen as nothing more than an attempt to silence critics.”